The holidays can get pretty hectic if you’re a father of four like me. As we settle down into the new year and leave last year’s holiday season behind, I’m inclined to refocus on our goals as a family. A major goal we have set is to spend more quality time together, planning and attending events, participating in group activities and going above and beyond our typical movie nights at home.
As we try our best to find ways to bring the whole family together to bond and have a great time without breaking the bank, we’ve found that some activities are better suited for our gaggle of kids than others.
To help your family find some affordable, bonding activities, here are four of our all-time favorite and budget-friendly family activities:
Once a month, we set out into our neighborhood as a family to clean up trash, rake leaves or weed gardens. Our kids weren’t thrilled when we first introduced this idea. But as we brainstormed different projects—tidying up the park, walking the neighbor’s dogs and collecting donations for different charitable organizations in town—they were excited to contribute their ideas and see them through. Each service project, while occasionally a little stressful, has resulted in great memories and heartwarming experiences.
Family Dinner Cook-Off
One Sunday a month, we divvy up responsibilities for the day’s meals. Family members will team up to cook breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. We get to pull out all the creative stops to shock and wow each other at each meal that day.
It takes some of the pressure off mom and dad to get everyone fed throughout the day and it allows the kids to have some creative control in the kitchen. Sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised by what our kids cook up and other times we fake a smile and choke down the dish they made up. But either way, we love the experience and the time spent together.
One of our family’s favorite activities is “candy poker.” We can sit around for hours on Friday night playing a friendly game of cards, trying our best to keep a straight face and putting all our treasured Twix Minis into the pot when we’re feeling lucky.
When we first started playing this game at home, we used any old candy laying around. But then we realized we all really wanted the Twix, the York Peppermint Patties and the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. So we figured out a system of candies and their corresponding values. (That way we were all more likely to take the betting seriously.)
Over time, the game has become less about the candy and more about the bragging rights. It’s a family tradition we’re all devoted to and enjoy very much.
Super Smash Bros. Showdown
True to our competitive nature, our family has made Super Smash Bros competitions a regular family ordeal. We track our winnings on a poster the kids made (we created a tournament bracket generator like the one below) and have winning incentives like ‘choosing movie night’s feature film’ and ‘exempt from doing the dishes for the month’. It keeps the competition exciting and it’s a game that every member of our family has fun playing!
With hectic schedules, after school activities, sports, clubs, meetings and other responsibilities, we can so easily miss out on much-needed quality time with the people that matter most in our lives—our families. But nothing matches the feeling of spending time with my wife and kids, bonding and creating lasting memories. Making an effort to incorporate these simple, budget-friendly activities into our week makes all the difference in our home.